Suncoast Solutions Lawsuit
Sunoco Spill Case Versus Sunoco – Lessons Learned
Suncoast Solutions has filed a lawsuit against Global Resorts Network, alleging RNF engaged in a conspiracy with certain companies to fix prices. R NF was also the middle man in a massive class action lawsuit that was filed against Sunoco, Occidental Petroleum and Texaco. The complaint alleged R NF failed to provide any service to clients and only offered them false promises and incentives. Sunoco’s CEO rejected the lawsuit in January and promised to investigate the charges. However, this investigation remains open.
Sunoco and R NF is both oil refineries, owned by Energy refineers.
They both belong to the largest refiner group in the country. The conflict is rooted from the fact that R NF holds the dominant share of the lucrative secondary commodity market. This means that if there is a settlement or arbitration involving the oil companies, it will most likely be settled involving R NF. This is where the Sunoco lawsuit comes in.
A settlement can be advantageous for everyone involved. For instance, R NF could avoid a potential default and increase its market share. Its competitors could be forced to accept smaller deals. Customers will receive better service and the possibility of receiving refunds will be greatly increased as well. In the end, customers stand to gain the most from such resolutions.
However, sometimes such resolutions aren’t possible. In this case, lawsuits are necessary.
Sunoco has sued. A federal district court has granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, denying R NF the right to bring a lawsuit. The three judges who heard the case ruled that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of R NF.
The plaintiffs have yet to appeal this decision. There are a number of reasons why R NF should have been more careful in this case. First, the nature of their industry makes them vulnerable to manipulation. If the complaint is true, Sunoco did not just take advantage of one supplier but searched the entire market, including competitors, for leaks. There is no way of knowing what other companies in the industry were doing under a given umbrella.
Another reason why R NF did not deserve to be sued is the size of their case.
Plaintiffs in small claims court often lack the leverage of being able to sue a corporation that can threaten them with a lawsuit if they do not settle quickly. Sunoco had the resources to fight a big case in the courts. They had a competent attorney and the money necessary to hire them.
Sunoco’s defense team also did not present any evidence that they were victims of discrimination. In Florida claims court, they presented a chart stating that their sales in Florida are up 90 percent since this case was filed. The chart was an effort to illustrate that R NF may have underestimated sales in Florida. This chart was also found wanting by the judge in the case.
Sunoco could have filed a lawsuit against R NF prior to filing their case against them in claims court.
If they had, it is quite possible that they could have received a settlement very quickly and avoided the need to file a lawsuit. But they did not. This is precisely why you should never file a lawsuit against a franchisor before research, investigation, and litigation have been done.
Another factor that could have been damaging to Sunoco’s case, had they been properly prepared and led by a knowledgeable legal team, is their lack of attention to and comprehension of the legal system in Florida. The Florida statutes are very complex. Even lawyers who specialize in litigating such cases have difficulty understanding all of the provisions in the statutes at the time that the case was filed. Sunoco’s counsel, assuming they understood all aspects of the case, failed to incorporate all of this information into the lawsuit.
The legal battle also failed to provide adequate discovery to support the complaint.
Discovery is a process in which a party brings forward “existing facts” in a civil lawsuit in an attempt to obtain discovery which would be admissible and helpful to their case. In Florida, any claim must be supported by a “proposed discovery”. Proposed discovery refers to any documents, tangible or not, which will enable the plaintiff to prepare their case. There is no requirement that plaintiffs show that a company was negligent.
There are many lessons that should be learned from this situation. First, if Sunoco’s counsel did not properly prepare and file this complaint, they jeopardized the success of their case. Second, although they eventually prevailed in the case, there were many mistakes made on both parts. Sunoco was not able to establish that their negligence was the direct cause of the oil spill, nor did they demonstrate that the spill resulted in injuries which resulted in a loss of life.